How to Talk to Boys and Get Them to Talk Back

The Basics

How to Talk to Boys and Get Them to Talk Back

For the full article, read How to Talk to Boys … And Get Them to Talk Back.

  1. Boys want to connect, they often just don’t know how. Don’t pull away permanently, even when he does temporarily.
  2. Don’t interrogate. Recognize that the school day can be completely exhausting when you figure in the combination of academics with complex social dynamics. Wiseman suggests, “Your goal is to make the first few minutes stress-free. If you do this, he’ll be much more likely to tell you about how his day was on his own. Try asking no questions when you see him.”
  3. Try the night. Most boys respond best when they’re winding down later in the evening, or when they’re going to bed. Even though this means staying up later for older teens, it’s worth it to occasionally wait up and see if he’s more receptive to sharing a conversation.
  4. Boys usually say, “I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” when they’re really feeling the complete opposite. They’re trained to shrug away concern and show calm detachment. Offering a simple, “I’m here if you want to talk about it later” leaves a door open without forcing an interaction.
  5. Offer them your help, but also a pathway to another adult. There are things your son won’t want to tell you but needs to tell someone. Most of the time that distinction needs to be made by him, not you. So how do you navigate all that while still making sure he’s getting adult help? Here’s a suggestion from Wiseman: “If ---[whatever you’re wondering about] ever happens to you, you know you can talk to me. Or if you don’t want to talk to me, let’s think of someone that you would like to talk to.” Your son should have a few adult allies he can turn to that he knows will take him seriously and won’t break his trust by telling you.
  6. Do something together. Boys often talk more freely when they’re sharing an activity – a sport you both like, going on a hike, playing video games together, or doing something you know he’s interested in, whether you share the interest or not. Stay away from phrases like, “Let’s spend time together,” or “I don’t see you enough anymore,” and instead offer something like, “Do you want to go to lunch?” Be careful about raising the pressure for every experience together to be about deep bonding. That’s likely to push him away.
  7. Don’t say these two things.
    • First, never, ever, ever call him a girl (or say he runs/hits/throws/anything else like a girl). Ever. Aside from the fact that it’s degrading to girls, you will lose every ounce of respect he has for you, and you’ll drain him of any personal dignity.
    • Second, never say “I’ll take care of this,” or its many counterparts in response to a problem he’s facing. Taking over his battles will only cripple his ability to learn to face hard things, and will likely make him resent your control.

And one more thing: Be prepared to be changed by what you hear. This is Wiseman’s definition of listening. If we’re actually paying attention to what our boys tell us, we have to be willing to change in response.


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